"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

January 4, 2011

Chick-a-Biddy Cottage

Chick-a-biddy Cottage is the latest addition to our farm. It is the childhood and adult home of Ida Dye Doyle, who grew up on our ridge and returned there later on in her colorful life. She died, sadly, on January 4, 2010, a year ago today, in fact, and a few months shy of 89. She was a good friend and neighbor and we wish we had known her for more than a few years. As her obituary states:
She was born on her parents, Walter and Bannie Dye, farm on May 23, 1921 and returned back here in the 1970s. Ida was widely traveled but loved the home place best, perhaps because she intimately knew every tree, stone, spring, and field.
The inner part of the house was once her family cabin and, in recent years, her daughter owned it and added onto it at both ends. Now it looks like a big brown bungalow.

We have started renovating it, quite affordably and without too much fanfare (a fresh coat of paint in your favorite colors is a marvelous thing!) from the inside out and I will blog occasionally about various aspects of it. [In fact, get ready for it: I designed a new farmhouse pantry inside! It was painted before Christmas and now awaits my getting back to filling it and arranging it. More on that soon!]

This watercolor was painted by one of Ida's relatives and inscribed on the back: 'This is the farm as I will always remember. Ira Dell Erwin III, son of Ira Dell Erwin II and Alma Ruba Dye daughter of Walter Dye and Bannie Dye, designer, builder of all you see. This painting must stay with the owner of the above property as a reminder of what was before.' Ida's daughter Roxanne gave it to me before she cleared the house out. I am forever grateful for her many kindnesses.

When the cottage is set up, it will be 'farm central' for me: I can look out the windows, on all sides of the cottage, and see what's what. This is important when you are a farmwife: you need to know what's going on and who's doing what. You need to be able to holler when dinner's ready without picking up a phone. The house is not big enough for our brood but we intend to camp out in it, especially in the summer months when we're across the street all the time. It will also be our guest house.

Most importantly, it is now my little cottage. I've adopted it and taken over, taking Virginia Woolf's advice to the max: forget the room, I now have a house of my own. My husband has his shop, and a hay shed, and an equipment shed, and a cattle sorting shed. I have a cottage. And I'm blessed. Here I will be working on most of my writing and will also be canning and cooking large meals in the summer months. And yes, there's that pantry that needs filling. 2011 is the year that I will be settling in, at last, to our farm world: this is a good thing, because we moved three years ago (remember that whole 'midlife' aspect of this blog? Well, I'll get into that later, too). Let's just say that I have a very patient husband and family!

One day, I expect, whether we build that elusive dream farmhouse across the way or not, the cottage will become, what the Amish and Mennonites call, a 'doty house' ('doty' is grandparent in Pennsylvania Dutch dialect). I'm not being entirely selfish. I will share. My husband and I will likely live there as old codgers on the farm at which time I will convert the entire upstairs into a giant bunkroom for grandchildren, or all manner of guests.

I'd like to think that Ida would approve of what we've been doing. The ridge just hasn't been the same without her on it.

You come back when you're ready!


Post Script. I should also explain the cottage name. As you may know from my other blog, In the Pantry, I have real live chickens now. For years I've been collecting chicken ephemera, for lack of a better term, and, among other reasons, well, I rather need a place to put it all. A 'chickabiddy' (also spelled 'chick-a-biddy') is an affectionate term for a young child, like what the French call their babies, "mon petit choux" (my little cabbage). As well as chickens, I'm also getting to that 'biddy' stage––not quite yet, but there are days. Well, you get the idea. As for 'The Southern House of Cupcakes' subtitle, I have two dear friends back in New England who also happen to be cohorts in our blog and virtual reading group, Cupcake Chronicles. Despite the miles, we get together at least once a year in a different location for a weekend get-together.


  1. I can't wait to see Chick-A-Biddy Cottage. You need to have a cottage warming and invite all your buddies, both from here and "there" (wherever "there" might be).


  2. We are in the planning stages as we speak! First to 'finish' the moving-in stage (it will go all month, believe me, as I'm behind now due to holidays, plague, a few deadlines etc.). Then the buddy list and menu! I'm expecting some sort of deal around or just before Valentine's Day.

    So, watch your mailbox! I might just extend an invite to blog readers who can get here, too.

    Can't wait! <3


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